Hearing from the minor league award winners and Brooks Robinson

So it had to be pretty cool tonight when Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins sat at a Camden Yards press conference to recognize the Orioles’ 2018 minor league award winners. Mullins won Player of the Year, taking home the Brooks Robinson Award. And Brooks was there looking on in the second row.

The Hall of Famer met Mullins in person for the first time today. No. 5 met No. 3.

“I know he can play center field, just depends on how he’s going to hit,” Brooks said. “I saw him hit that double last night. That would have been a long single for me. He just needs the opportunity.

“I kind of draw a parallel. When I signed in ‘55, they had lost 100 games in ‘54. But it gives an opportunity for a lot of people to play here in the big leagues. That is what it’s all about if we are going to start a rebuild. I’m happy for him. He loves to play and that’s it.”

Mullins-Bench-Black-sidebar.jpgMullins has seemingly always been overcoming something in his pro career. Whether it be that he’s smaller in stature than most players or that he was drafted in round 13, much lower than many more highly touted prospects.

But this year Mullins hit .289/.346/.472 in 109 games on the farm between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, recording 29 doubles, eight triples, 12 homers, 21 steals and 47 RBIs.

“Growing up, my dad always said, just put that log on the fire. Continue to build on what you have and continue to work hard and you’ll see results from it,” he said before taking the field tonight for his 31st major league game.

The Orioles have co-winners of the Jim Palmer award for Pitcher of the Year in left-handers Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther.

Akin, who was also named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, went 14-7 at Bowie with 14 quality starts and an 3.27 ERA. He led the EL in wins and strikeouts, and was third in ERA.

Lowther got his season off to a great start, going 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA for Single-A Delmarva. Then he was moved to Frederick, where he pitched to an ERA of 1.86 his last eight starts. Between both teams for the year he went 8-4 with a 2.18 ERA, and he led all O’s minor leaguers in both ERA and strikeouts.

I asked both pitchers in what ways they advanced their pitching this year.

“I would say mine is probably my off-speed,” Akin said. “I know I kind of struggled last year in throwing those pitches for strikes. The goal this past offseason was to get back to better command of those. I think I kind of did that, and there is still more room to improve.”

Said Lowther: “Yeah, I think the offspeed for me, too. Being able to execute more than just the fastball. That is something you need going forward. Once I got to Frederick, there was a lot of work on the off-speed, changeup, curveball, and trying to throw those for strikes early in counts and when I wanted. Keeping the hitter off balance was a lot of the work that I needed to do.”

The Orioles also recognized others tonight, including Single-A Delmarva outfielder Zach Jarrett, this year’s recipient of the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award.

Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson has been named the winner of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Player Development Award, named for the late Orioles coach and manager who is widely regarded as the architect of “The Oriole Way.”

Orioles area scout Rich Morales got the Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award, named in honor of the man who spent 33 years in various scouting capacities with the Orioles. Morales was the signing scout for three players who made their major league debuts this season in Mullins, catcher Austin Wynns and pitcher Ryan Meisinger.

The Orioles also recognized their minor league strikeouts leader, right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer. Kremer not only led the Orioles, but he led all minor league levels in full-season baseball, striking out 178 batters for three different teams this season. Additionally, the Orioles recognized PBATS Gulf Coast League Trainer of the Year Adam Sparks. He was selected by his peers as the GCL Trainer of the year, awarded by the Professional Baseball Athletics Trainer’s Association.

The winners were honored tonight during an on-field ceremony, with awards presented by Orioles director of scouting Gary Rajsich, director of minor league operations Kent Qualls and Robinson, an Orioles special advisor and community liaison.

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